16 May 2023

What are PMO Tools?

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Best PMO Tools

One of the most frequently asked questions we get here at The PMO Professionals is “what is the best PMO tool?”

The truth is that one size doesn’t fit all; just as PMO is used to describe a project, programme or portfolio office – the best PMO tool for each situation will depend on what you need it to do.

It will also depend on the current level of project, programme or portfolio management maturity within the function or organisation where the PMO tooling will be used.

What is a PMO tool?

The term “PMO tools” typically describes applications and/or software used by a project, programme or portfolio office to collate, analyse and produce project-related information.

PMO tools provide a centralised place to capture data and information related to projects, programmes and portfolios; this data and information can then be used to track and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), and to provide management information to inform decision-making.

Typical users of PMO tools include members of the PMO plus project managers and team members; other stakeholders may consume the management information produced using the PMO tools.

One of the main benefits of PMO tools is that people know where to find project-related information, ensuring that everyone is working from the same page.

How do PMO tools differ from PPM tools?

The terms are often used interchangeably and a quick Google search of both will produce very similar results.

From our perspective here at The PMO Professionals, we describe PMO tools as a collection of applications and software used by those working within a project, programme or portfolio office to carry out their day-to-day tasks.

Many PMOs have to operate using tools that the organisation already has available – platforms like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace may be used alongside applications like PowerApps or Miro, subject to organisational IT policies around anything deemed non-standard.  

Let’s acknowledge now that this approach isn’t necessarily a bad one – it may even be the best one to take if the organisation doesn’t deliver change using formal project management approaches, or the level of project, programme or portfolio management maturity in the organisation is at the lower end of the scale.  

We call this a tactical approach – when defined processes and procedures are still developing and so some flexibility is needed.  This approach can start to become a little more problematic when conditions change and a large degree of effort is spent on collating, analysing and producing information, to the detriment of other services that the PMO could provide. 

A PPM tool will typically be used to facilitate project portfolio management across a wider base of users in an organisation that has reached a good foundation in project, programme or portfolio management maturity.  Enterprise PPM tools like Planview, Clarity or Workfront are typically found in larger corporations with multiple portfolios of work that can take several years to deliver, and involve hundreds or thousands of resources over their lifetime.  

We call this a strategic approach – where processes and procedures are established and alignment to strategy plays a big part in the prioritisation of work across the organisation. 

What does a PMO tool do?

Common features of PMO tools include a repository for project documentation and other resources, designed to eliminate confusion and minimise duplication of efforts. Efficient collaboration is encouraged with real-time chat, discussion boards and comment threads, enabling team members to communicate and stay connected and informed whether they are in the same office or located in different parts of the world.

Some PMO tools include project management functionality such as task assignment, timelines and tracking, providing clear visibility into progress and deadlines for effective workload management and timely completion of deliverables.

Real-time reporting and analytics capabilities allow users to understand project performance and make data-informed decisions by identifying trends, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and providing visual representations of information.  

What does a PPM tool do?

An enterprise PPM tool will offer a range of features to help an organisation to manage its project portfolios. Specific features will vary depending on the tool and vendor but typically include:

  1. Project Portfolio Dashboard: A central dashboard that provides a high-level view of the entire project portfolio, including key performance indicators (KPIs), project status, resource allocation, financials, and other relevant metrics.

  2. Project Prioritisation and Selection: Tools that facilitate the process of prioritising and selecting projects based on predefined criteria, such as strategic alignment, resource availability, financial impact, risk assessment, and return on investment (ROI) analysis.

  3. Resource Management: Features to manage and allocate resources across multiple projects, including resource planning, capacity management, skills assessment, and resource utilisation tracking. This helps ensure that resources are optimally allocated and utilised.

  4. Project Planning and Scheduling: Tools that support project planning and scheduling activities, including creating and managing project plans, defining milestones and deliverables, setting dependencies, estimating project timelines, and visualising project timelines through Gantt charts.

  5. Financial Management: Capabilities to manage project budgets, track project costs, estimate financial forecasts, and analyse project financial performance. This includes features like cost estimation, budget tracking, expense management, and financial reporting.

  6. Risk and Issue Management: Functionality to identify, assess, and track risks and issues across the project portfolio. This includes tools for risk identification, risk assessment, risk mitigation planning, issue tracking, and risk reporting.

  7. Collaboration and Communication: Features that facilitate collaboration and communication among project stakeholders, including document sharing, team collaboration spaces, real-time chat or messaging, notifications, and integration with email and other communication platforms.

  8. Reporting and Analytics: Robust reporting and analytics capabilities to generate customised reports and dashboards, providing insights into project performance, resource utilisation, financials, and other relevant metrics. This helps stakeholders make informed decisions and monitor project progress.

  9. Portfolio Governance: Tools to establish and facilitate governance processes, including project approval workflows, project stage gates, standardised project templates, and compliance tracking. These features help ensure that projects align with organisational goals and adhere to established processes.

Looking for independent advice on PPM tools?

Our unbiased recommendations and expertise will save you time, mitigate risks, and ensure that your project portfolio management efforts are optimised for success.

Let us help you to make confident decisions when it comes to selecting the right project portfolio management tool for your organisation.